Ramadan: Bringing ourselves closer to God
WE LIVE - for a reason. All things, may it be animate or inanimate, have their purpose. But there are times we don’t follow the purpose that God wants for us. Sometimes, we engage ourselves in situations not pleasing in the eyes of God and men. We divulge in activities that destroy our values, virtues and the essence of our very own existence. Years pass and time flies and we have to repent for our sins.
One way of repenting is through fasting. According to religious beliefs, fasting is the utmost divine chastisement for seeking God’s interference. Shared with the power and grace of prayers, it becomes our deterrent of spiritual struggle and redemption in our lives. There are times our prayers are unanswered and God doesn’t grant our hearts’ desire, but when we fast done in the appropriate way, it will move God to accomplish his anticipated plan on the situation. Fasting, in a way, becomes a religious activity, particularly if the purpose is to seek God’s intervention.
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The practice of fasting can be found in key religions worldwide. Among the Hindus, their fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. They observe fasting on special occurrences as a symbol of their respect to their personal gods or a part of their repentance. The Indians fast habitually or on special events. They fast by not eating one whole day or eat only once or lessen food intake.
Fasting is a day of atonement for the Jewish people. It is considered the last of the 10 days repentance observed on the 10th of Tishi, a day that forbids Jewish people to eat, drink, wash, wear leather, or engage in sexual relations. The Christians and Catholics fast during Lenten season, the practice derives from Jesus forty-days fast. Later in the fourth century, fasting was observed for six weeks before Easter or before Holy Week but in the seventh century it was adjusted to 40 days.
In Islam, it is in the context God states in the Quran: “O, believers! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you in order that you become more conscious of God (Noble Quran 2:183).”
Among the Muslims, fasting would mean bringing oneself closer to God. It is usually observed in the month of Ramadan that occurs in the lunar calendar. In this month, all Muslim nations both men and women, young and old, rich or poor come together to fast for a whole month with no food, drinking and avoiding intimate relations during daytime.
Muslims spend their waking hours reading the Quran. Ramadan is a very significant month in Islam observed by the Muslims as it was written: “Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as guidance and clarification to humankind ,and a distinction between right and wrong .So, whoever from among you witnessed the month should fast it” Quran (2:185).”
Fasting is strictly followed in Islam for it is believed that it is the precondition for uprightness, as Prophet Muhammad was asked: “Which is the best deed?” He answered, “Fasting, for there is nothing equal to it. (Quran 5)”
According to Dr. Bilal Philips, there are different ways or levels of fasting. The major levels are ritual fasting, physical level, health or medical level, psychological level and spiritual level.
Fasting should be done in proper manner to make the deed meaningful and real. The ritual level follows the basic rule of fasting that includes no eating of food, no drinking and sexual contact starting from dawn until sunset for the whole month of every year. The spirit of fasting is not observed in ritual fasting for it has to consider the other level of fasting to have an influence or bearing on the person fasting. This level of fasting allows a person to eat huge meals before beginning to fast and directly upon ending of the fast.
Physical level is a kind of fasting where the person experiences “the feeling of hunger and thirst during the Sunnah (way of fasting).” When a person experience hunger and thirst, he can feel compassion to the pleading stomach of those who famished and are dying of hunger around the world. Fasting, in this level allows a very light meal before dawn and a moderate meal to break the fast during sunset.
Fasting too has medical benefits. Medical experts says fasting improves the physical health, for example, whole fasting our body uses up deposited fats that is often found in the blood system and other fatty areas of the body, this will make the body stable and reduces risk of heart attack.
Fasting also produces endorphins that make the body feel better. Fasting in the libidinal level reduces sexual activities and this automatically kindle him psychologically helps to lower the libido thus lessening sexual desires.
Fasting in psychological level will bring the person to resist and stop evil judgments and trains a person how to overcome wicked actions, cruel deeds and will make him evaluate himself and start to control those vices and bad habits he had been doing.
The main and most significant level of fasting is the spiritual level known as the level of God-consciousness, Fasting in this level here strengthens and magnify our relationship with God .This level marks the daily renewal of intention that helps to create a spiritual foundation in the daily cleansing of our sins, mishaps and adversities.
Dr. Bilal Philip said “if combined with all the major levels of fasting, this level changes a person from within following the paths of righteousness.”
By Marissa Mabalot-Bomogao, 29/07/2012